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Game Meat
The Proper Care of Wild Game Meat:

Once an animal is harvested, congratulations passed out, photos taken, it's now time to salvage the meat in accordance with state game regulations. Some regulations, such as those in Alaska, requires that you pack out all of the game meat before you pack out the antlers/horns and cape. Remember..how you care for the meat in the field will determine how it will taste on the table later.

Field dressing: Hunters should learn how to properly field dress an animal and care for the meat in the field. Some hunters will waste a lot of nutritious meat simply because they do not know how to properly field dress an animal. There are a few preferred methods for field dressing, a reputable taxidermist will be glad to share those with you prior to the hunt. The skinning and quartering process is basically the same for deer, sheep, elk, moose and caribou. The procedure gets more challenging for bears, especially the large Kodiak brownies. You can be successful with most skinning methods, provided you remember the keys for proper meat care; cool, clean, and dry.

keep the meat cool, clean and dry.
Heat is the greatest threat to game meat. If you must leave an animal in the field over night after harvesting, you should gut the animal and prop the body cavity open to accelerate the cooling process. While some small animals such as sheep and whitetail deer can be left un-quartered overnight, I do not recommend this for large animals such as; elk, moose or caribou. Even if the temperature dips below freezing, the thick hide of an animal serves as an effective insulator in locking in carcass heat. Heat will sour or spoil meat in a short period of time, especially in large game animals. To cool the meat, remove the hide as soon as possible after harvesting and get the meat away from the internal organs. The warmer the weather, the more urgent it becomes to do this as soon as possible. After pushing the gut pile away, trim the inner carcass of fat, kidneys, and any connective tissue. If possible prop the animal up so that it will properly drain. Do not use water to wash out the body cavity. Water can spoil meat, especially if you are going to be in camp several more days. Your first priority is to cool the meat, then clean it, and allow it to crust; water will delay the crusting process.

Boning or sectioning the meat; My son and I have years of experience butchering wild game meat in the field as we often hunt miles away from roads in some very remote country. We begin by removing the hind quarters, then we take off the front quarters, saw off the rib cage, then the neck, and finish the process by removing the tenderloins and back straps. When we are finished; we have two hind quarters, two front quarters, the neck, two rib cage halves, flank and tenderloins, and some miscellaneous meat from the backbone.

If you plan on leaving camp in a day or two, or if you are hunting alone, boning (removing all edible meat from the bones) is a great way of leaving a lot of weight at the kill site. However, if you are staying longer in camp, I recommend that you leave the meat on the bone. Here's why; every time that you make a deep cut in the meat by boning with your knife, you trap bacteria and moisture in that cut. Thus, air needed for proper crusting cannot get into the meat and the spoiling process starts. In warm weather, meat spoiling can take place in less than a couple of days. Another consideration for not boning the meat is; by keeping the bones in the meat makes it far easier to hang the meat in camp to cool and crust. If you prefer, and weight is a consideration, just before you leave camp you can bone out the meat.

After skinning the animal and quartering the meat, you will need to bag it. A good game bag will keep the meat clean, not only in the field,  but while hanging and during the trip back to camp. Do not use the cheap, wide meshed game bags, as they fail to keep both dirt and insects off the meat. Use the Alaskan game bags, sold by Cabela's for about $15 for a pack of four.
You will need eight bags for a moose, six for caribou or sheep, and four for most deer. These are great bags, very strong and very small and light.

When you get the meat back to camp, select a breezy area out of the sun to hang it. An area where the wind can cool and crust the meat, which will keep the insects at bay. If you think it's going to rain or snow, hang a tarp over the meat to keep it dry. The tarp should be suspended from a rope above the meat and not tied directly to it, you still want air to get to the meat. A tarp also helps keep birds and insects from tearing holes in your game bags. 

Your meat is susceptible to insects from the time you quarter it until it forms a hard crust. If the meat crusts properly, then the flies won't have a place to lay their eggs. This is why it is very important to check the meat daily, ensuring the meat stays dry to allow it to crust. Properly crusted meat will have a dull-red color and a hard-glazed surface. 

If insects become bothersome,  you can liberally dust the meat with black pepper. Also, if the meat isn't crusting as quickly as you think it should, you can rub vegetable oil over the meat...flies hate it.

Once you pack out of the mountain and begin your trip home, package the meat in a cooler, cover it with newspaper and then pour some dry ice on top. Dry ice will keep the meat safe for 2-3 days provided you keep the cooler lid closed. If you are flying, check with the airline first to see if they allow dry ice on the plane. You should avoid using crushed ice, because it melts quickly and the moisture can spoil your meat.

Remember.....to keep the wind in your face and shoot straight. Happy Hunting.




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